Massachusetts priest defrocked for sexually abusing minor: archdiocese
Catholic priest covering face (Shuttershock)

A suburban Boston priest has been defrocked by the Vatican after an investigation by the Roman Catholic church found him guilty of child sexual abuse, the Boston Archdiocese said on Thursday.

The priest, Thomas H. Maguire, was serving as pastor of Saint Helen Mother of the Emperor Constantine church in Norwell, Massachusetts, about 25 miles (40 km) southeast of Boston, when he was accused in 2012 of inappropriate sexual activity with minors. Maguire was suspended from priestly duties at that time.

Police investigated that allegation but did not find evidence of a crime.

However, following the news of Maguire's suspension, other people came forward to accuse him of sexual abuse dating to the mid-1990s and earlier, the Boston Archdiocese said in a statement.

A probe by church officials into those earlier allegations concluded that Maguire was guilty of abuse of a minor, the archdiocese said.

It was unclear if there was one or more victims, and the earlier incidents were too old to be criminally prosecuted.

"We are grateful to the victims who had the strength to come forward," the archdiocese said. "Their courage assisted the Church in seeking justice."

Under the church's rules, once a bishop's investigation has found that a member of clergy has sexually abused a minor, the case is referred to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which holds the power to defrock.

Maguire, who was ordained in 1976 and served in nine Massachusetts parishes, could not be reached for immediate comment on Thursday.

The clergy sex abuse scandal burst onto the international stage in 2002 with the Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning story revealing that church officials routinely covered up sex abuse by priests. That set off a global wave of investigations that found similar patterns at dioceses around the world, undercutting the church's moral authority.

The 2015 film "Spotlight," which chronicled the Globe's reporting of the clergy sex abuse scandal, earlier this year won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The Vatican unveiled in 2014 that it had defrocked more than 800 priests since the start of the crisis.

Insurance experts told a Vatican conference in 2012 that as many as 100,000 U.S. children may have been the victims of clerical sex abuse. Some 12 U.S. dioceses have filed for bankruptcy since the scandal broke, in part due to more than $3 billion in settlements paid to victims.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)